Remember back when we upgraded the walls of our orchard with a new solid wire wall? Our plan at the time was to secure the top of the orchard with some netting, stretched over hoops.
→ It’s done! ←
We’ve had the netting since we put up the hoops, but we stalled at the time because we thought that we might need some kind of ridge-pole to support the weight. We umm-ed and ah-ed about this for a few weeks, and then Winter happened. Winter is a great time to let things go a bit, and with shorter evening hours, we just put the whole thing off until Spring.
Well, hello Springtime blooms! It wasn’t long after the blossoms started to happen that I realised the Blueberry bushes were already well under way:
Blueberries in particular are hugely vulnerable to bird attack. Once we had liberated the blueberry bed from its winter weeds, we realised that it was already past time to get the net up! The hand of necessity was nudging us to just give it a go without a ridge pole:
We used two nets, 10 metres long by 4 metres wide. At first we tried with just one net, but the hoops must be about 5 metres long, so the net wouldn’t stretch over the tallest hoops.
We sewed the two nets together along the long edge, using garden twine, looping it in and out (took us a couple of hours, actually!). Garden twine was not great for sewing with, just poking with the raw ends, but a small knot in the end of each “thread” was easy to push through the netting.
The netting is secured at the edges with wooden clothes pegs. This has stood up to some pretty heavy winds, with only a bit of fiddling. :)
Tips for overhead netting
Here are a few tips for dealing with overhead netting, if you are thinking of attempting something like this for yourself:
Make it tall. No, really. If it only clears your head by about a foot it is too low. Trust me on this! Over the season the net will sag down, and you will be pushing that sucker out of your face all the time. And the spiderwebs.
Leave room for plants that climb. This goes especially for climbing types like tomatoes and green beans. Trust me on this. If your veggies climb up onto the roof, they will just pull it down towards the ground, straining the net and popping holes. The vines are destructive, and hard to get out of the netting! What’s more, the fruit forms up on the top, *above* the net, where you can’t harvest it, but the birds can. Fail!
It won’t keep everything out. Rats, particularly, seem undeterred by netting. I think they would eat through it if they couldn’t just easily push their way under, so don’t expect your tasty corn crop to be safe. Trust me on this one, too! *sigh* Ditto snakes. Birds do find smallish holes, and then get very confused trying to get out. Be careful to secure gaps.
Stretch it reasonably tight. Tight enough that a bird or bat flying at night, bumping into your net, will not get a fright and start to tangle up. However, they don’t need to bounce off like a trampoline!
It won’t last forever. Sticks and leaves will fall onto the top, so you probably want to bounce these off every now and then to stop it getting weighed down and snagged. Winds and general wear-and-tear outside mean that it will get holes occasionally. These are easy to scrunch up with a peg, or sew together.
Avoid moving the net. By this, I mean, putting it up and taking it down or shifting it around a lot. Every time you drape it on the ground it tangles and attracts *all of the sticks*. It will also snag easily when you try to drape it back up.
Avoid grass. We used to have a netting “wall” on the orchard. This wall couldn’t be moved at all because the grass (which we had cleared away beforehand) sent runners up the netting. All. The. Time. Be prepared to yank up grass runners and deal with large holes in your net, is you are using it as a semi-permanent wall. That’s why we now use solid wire!
Make the structure solid. If you use a teepee to hold up your net, the wind will blow it over, and tangle your net. A line of wire on top of star pickets? Not sufficient. We’ve tried this, and never again. We’ve got wooden beams now (not amazingly hefty ones, but a solid piece). The pipe arches are terrific, so far, anchored onto the solid orchard walls.
Okay, so what’s the verdict so far?
On day one, we realised we had a slight flaw with our White Bastion of Invulnerability. The chicken coop door needs to stay open during the day, closing the gap in the orchard wall! I discovered this face palm moment when a bird was discovered in the orchard, confused about how to get out. It had to be chased out the open door way!
It has deterred the wretched Brush Turkey, though. *snicker* I saw him yesterday on the lawn, kinda moping. HAHAHA.
It has also deterred the possum(s)! As I pruned the trees in preparation for hoisting the net, I discovered that the top of the plum was being severely nibbled. Now there are brand new un-eaten shoots — a sure sign that no possum is thieving here, any more.
However, it has not deterred the Goanna!
He came in this morning under the gap in the fence (it’s almost like we have some kind of burrowing creature in here … like a scratching flock of chickens!)
Fixing that gap is a job for this weekend!